The naming of ships in the United States Navy has undergone a few iterations over the years.  The first ship of the Continental Navy, a converted merchantman was named “Alfred” after Alfred the Great representing in part the recognition of the historic ties the colonists still felt to England.
A little while later, the first six frigates of the United States Navy authorized by the Naval Act of 1794 included more traditional names that have lived on in history: Chesapeake, Constitution, President, United States, Congress and Constellation.  Of these, the USS Constitution is still afloat and a commissioned warship on the United States Register of Naval Vessels – the oldest ship of any type still afloat in the world.
If there’s interest in this topic, there are plenty of other articles I could put together on this topic.  Like Animal’s old Profiles in Toxic Masculinity series, there’s more than enough material.   I don’t intend to cover it in this first piece, but in addition to traditional considerations, I could certainly cover some of the dubious or questionable selections.
For this first piece, I felt it would be most appropriate to cover the ships most directly associated with my personal Naval career.  I should note – at least from an officers perspective (and prior enlisted) that although Naval History is emphasized throughout the service, on the whole, the level of esprit de corps seems distinctly lacking on a unit/ship level – compared to my time in the Army – with some exceptions where noted.  I may approach this in more detail in the future, but I think on the whole, a large part of it stems from the junior enlisted/senior enlisted/officer distinctions that are utilized in the Navy – particularly in shipboard life – that have not traditionally been found in Army line units.
That said, I feel there is vastly more significance to naming a ship (especially a warship) after an individual than a barracks – or even a base – that feeling, such as it is – embodied by a moving representation of an individual – often with images or reminders of that individual throughout the ship.  Obviously…that can have its downside if the ship is involved in a negative action or suffers some misfortune – but there is that little something that ties the crew together a little bit more.  I can’t speak for the Submarine force, but I feel that on the whole there’s less of this in a ship named after a location – the exceptions being the Amphibious warships named after historic battles or significant/memorable sites.

USS INGRAHAM (FFG 61) – a great ship to serve on.

My first ship – straight out of OCS (Officer Candidate School) in Newport, RI – was the USS Ingraham (FFG 61).  USS Ingraham was the last ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of guided missile frigates – although ironically enough, the missile launchers were removed from the class back in 2004.  Ingraham was the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named after Captain Duncan Ingraham.  Unlike many namesakes, Captain Ingraham was recognized for a peacetime action – known as the Koszta Affair.

Captain Duncan Nathaniel Ingraham

The sloop USS St Louis

While residing in the United States as an immigrant, Austro-Hungarian dissident Martin Koszta had declared his intention to become an American citizen.  During a trip to Turkey in 1853, he was seized by the Turkish authorities to be turned over to the Austro-Hungarian empire.  And while I’m sure a summary could be provided, I think it’s appropriate in this case to let Captain Ingraham’s words speak for themselves.
“United States Ship St. Louis, Smyrna, July 3, 1853.
Sir : It becomes my duty to report to you an affair at this place, in which I have taken upon myself to compromise the American flag.
I arrived here upon the 23d of June, and, soon after anchoring, was informed that an American had been kidnapped by the Austrian consul upon the Turkish soil, and sent on board an Austrian brig-of-war.
I sent for the American consul, and informed him of what I had heard. He told me the man was a Hungarian refugee, (named Martin Koszta,) who had a certificate of intention to become a citizen of the United States, and came here in an American vessel, but that he did not consider him under his protection, having, to his knowledge, no passport.
The consul and myself then went on board the brig and requested to see the commander, but were told he was not on board. We then went to the Austrian consul and demanded to see Koszta, which, after some demur, was granted. After a conversation with Koszta, I was afraid I had no right to demand him as a citizen of the United States, but determined neither to make a claim, nor acquiesce in his seizure, until I could hear from the legation at Constantinople. I was guided in this opinion by the consul, who seemed to think we could not use force without more evidence than the paper in his possession gave. I then requested the consul to write immediately to the legation, which he did. Before an answer could arrive, I received information that Koszta was to be sent to Trieste. I immediately wrote to the commander of the brig, protesting against this step, and received a verbal reply that he was ignorant of any such intention. Next morning, at daylight, I got under way and anchored within half-cable’s length of the brig, and loaded my guns ; the steamer, in which it was said Koszta was to be sent, being very near. At 11 a. m. an answer came from Mr. Brown, stating that Koszta was an American citizen, and advising the consul to give him all aid and sympathy, but in an unofficial way. I then told the consul he must insist upon Koszta remaining until I again heard from the charge. He did so, when the Austrian consul told him he had intended to send the man that day, but would wait until the next mail. On Saturday, the 2d of July, the capon oglan of the legation arrived with letters from the charge to the consul and myself to use stringent measures.
I immediately had an interview with Koszta, in which he claimed the protection of the American flag. I then addressed note “B ” to the commander of the brig, demanding Koszta’s release. I also directed the American consul to furnish the Austrian consul with a copy of the demand, which was done.
At this time the Austrian brig and a 10-gun schooner, that arrived the day before, prepared for action ; having three mail steamers to assist. I did the same, and awaited the hour of 4 p. m. At 12 our consul came off with a proposition that Koszta should be delivered into the hands of the consul general of France, to be held at the joint order of the American and Austrian consuls until his nationality should be determined. After some consideration, and the advice of the English and French consuls to ours, I agreed to the terms. The prisoner was then landed, amid the cheers of the inhabitants and every demonstration of joy.  I know, sir, I have taken a fearful responsibility upon myself by this act ; but after Mr. Brown had informed me Koszta had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States, and forsworn all allegiance to Austria; that he was an American citizen, and had been under the protection of the legation at Constantinople, I could not hesitate to believe he was fully entitled to protection. It was a case of life and death, for if Koszta had been taken to Trieste his fate was sealed ; and could I have looked the American people in the face again if I had allowed a citizen to be executed, and not used the power in my hands to protect him for fear of doing too much? The easy manner, also, in which he was given up, and the convention that he should be held by a third party until his nationality could be established, is evidence that they were not sure of their ground.
Should my conduct be approved by you, sir, it will be one of the proudest moments of my life, that I have saved this gallant man from a cruel and ignominious death. On the other hand, should the course I have pursued be disavowed, I must bow to the decision ; but what-ever may be the consequences to myself, I shall feel I have done my best to support the honor of the flag, and not allow a citizen to be oppressed who claimed at my hands the protection of the flag. I enclose copies of all the papers (A to E) relating to this affair. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(bold added by me)
Sadly, I doubt we would see this level of independent initiative or political risk-taking in the Navy today – nor for that matter, the level of top cover he received from his superiors (and the state department) for exercising his best judgment.  Just imagining this situation in the age of twitter gives me a migraine.  And sadly, due to his membership in the Confederate Navy – as a lifelong South Carolinian, we will probably never see him recognized again.
As I had not checked the wikipedia for the past several years until conducting research for this piece, I sadly missed this piece of news as well.  She was a good ship – I hope it was worth it.

Crest of the USS INGRAHAM (FFG 61).   (The alternate motto we had was “Last and Finest”)


If you have the chance to look at the respective ship’s crests, I think – the designers have increasingly done an excellent job representing many aspects of the significant events in the lives of their namesakes as well as aspects of naval warfare relevant to the ship’s current role.

USS CHUNG HOON (DDG 93) – returning to port at the end of deployment Oct 2013 – which means I’m probably somewhere in that picture.

The second ship I’ll discuss in this article is – by no coincidence – the second ship I served on.  In keeping with several military traditions, the USS CHUNG-HOON (DDG 93) was the first “Hawaiian Destroyer” – although it will soon be joined at Pearl Harbor by the USS DANIEL INOUYE (DDG 118).    Like Duncan Ingraham, Gordon Pai’ea (Hawaiian for “Hard Shell Crab”) Chung-Hoon was not a Medal of Honor winner, but he was still a war hero with a long and distinguished career.

Rear Admiral Gordon Pai’ea Chung-Hoon

Gordon Chung-Hoon was notable not only for being the first Asian American graduate of the US Naval Academy (class of 1934), but also for being a star half-back and punter on the football team.  (Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate a copy of his football portrait we had hanging in the ship’s wardroom – but here are a few others).


Sports Illustrated Dec 22 1958 – Silver (25th Anniversary) All Americans


Early 30s – US Naval Academy

For better or worse, one of Chung-Hoon’s first assignments was the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.  Thankfully he had spent the night in Honolulu on a weekend pass and was on his way back to the ship on Sunday morning when the Japanese attacked on 7 Dec 1941.  He had several other assignments, before being given command of the destroyer USS SIGSBEE (DD 502) in May 1944.

Hard at work (should probably be more paperwork involved – and coffee)



Commander Chung-Hoon and SIGSBEE participated in numerous actions until a battle off the coast of Okinawa on 14 April 1945 – he earned a silver star several days earlier.  While screening the battlegroup as a radar picket, SIGSBEE assisted in the destruction of 20 planes before being hit by a kamikaze aft of her number 5 gun.  Despite damage severe enough that Admiral Halsey directed Commander Chung-Hoon to scuttle his ship, the commander directed damage control efforts until they were able to restore enough systems to make port in Guam under their own power (there was some towing involved somewhere).  (This may also have been a case in which the ship was forced to make the entire trip in reverse due to the damage – but I may be mixing that up with another story).


The Commander told the Admiral he would not abandon ship because “…I have kids on here that can’t swim and I’m not putting them in the water.  I’ll take her back.”


Kamikaze hit aft of the #5 Gun

Like the other services, the Navy values tradition a great deal.  The Battle of Midway is recognized every year across the fleet, but individual ships also recognize their own traditions – often based on their namesakes.  While stationed on board CHUNG-HOON, we recognized SIGSBEE Day every April 14th – by a formal ceremony on the deck in whites that included reading the names of the 23 sailors killed in the attack (sadly no pics from the ceremony during my deployment).


SIGSBEE Day 2016


SIGSBEE Day 2019


Gordon Chung-Hoon continued to serve in the navy until 1959 (including command of the destroyer USS JOHN W THOMASON (DD 760) during the Korean War) becoming the first Asian American Flag Officer in the Navy upon his retirement.  After retirement he served in multiple public service roles in Hawaii, most notably director of the Department of Agriculture in the early days of statehood and even ran for Congress as a Republican before passing away in 1979.


Crest of the USS CHUNG HOON (DDG 93) – note the Hawaiian elements integrated into the crest.  Motto translates from Hawaiian as “Go forward sea warriors!”


I realize these aren’t quite up to the standard of some “Toxic Masculinity” tales, but there are still some pretty nifty stories behind some of these ships.  Let me know if you’re interested in more of them.  I’ve actually got the next one half completed already….


I love this piece from Milton Caniff’s “Male Call” – it does a great job breaking down the designations we use for ship classes (circa WWII)